I woke up Sunday morning to my wife gently telling me she had sad news: Tobe Hooper died. I'm glad I got to hear it from her instead of finding out on Facebook or something, but I didn't have any words to respond. I knew the day would come eventually -- I have talked about it on more than one occasion -- but it's the kind of thing for which you can never actually be ready. Still, here we are. I'm trying to write this while crying on and off because writing is all I have to offer. And I owe you that much.
When George Romero passed away just about a month ago, I wrote about how sad it was and how much it knocked me on my ass. I was criticized for this by a couple of readers, at least one of whom was apparently so disgusted by my reaction that he announced he would no longer be visiting the site. I was told that I take movies too seriously. I mention this not to throw shade but to offer a bit of preface: if you are someone who thinks I take movies too seriously or who found yourself appalled at my response to George Romero's death, you're going to want to stop reading now. It's not going to get better or less personal. This loss, more than any other, has wrecked me.
You were my guy, Tobe. I never met you, never spoke to you, never had any personal interactions with you the way so many of my friends and acquaintances online have. I can only imagine what they are going through, much less your friends and family, who have lost not just a filmmaker they love but an actual loved one. You're my guy because I love your movies more than almost anyone else's and because I have written about your work more than any other filmmaker. You're my guy, Tobe, because your work was perpetually misunderstood and I have a natural predisposition to champion the underdog. This is not suggesting that I'm a born contrarian, deliberately choosing to throw my support behind art that is unloved. I find nothing contrarian about my love for you or your films. You're my guy, Tobe, because I connect with your work in ways I connect with almost no one else's, and recognizing that has actually helped unlock within myself a better understanding of who I am. Is this not one of the truest functions of art?
With the exception of the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, none of your films were perfect. That's ok. Good, in fact. Perfect bores me. (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre does not bore me.) Besides, your movies were perfect for me. I love their energy, their wicked humor, their refusal to compromise or bow to expectations. No one was ever ready for a Tobe Hooper movie, not from the first frame of TCM to the last frame of Djinn, your final film. Chain Saw rocked audiences to their core in 1974, tearing down the rules of horror cinema and destroying the dream of the 1960s in the process. It continues to rock people still today as an unrelentingly visceral experience in non-stop terror. For as much as the movie represents a sea change from the 1960s into the jaded paranoia of the 1970s, Texas Chain Saw is timeless because fear is timeless. No movie creates or captures fear better.
Salem's Lot into a TV miniseries and decided that just because it was made for TV was no reason it couldn't be completely terrifying, scarier than just about any made-for-TV movie before or since. The Funhouse, still my favorite of your films, is a movie that's entirely about subverting our expectations, whether it's the reveal of the POV shower killer in the opening or the long buildup in which the characters wander around a carnival where nothing is quite what it seems, then encounter a monster that's not the monster we think. The movie never stops surprising us. With Lifeforce, you took material that might have otherwise made for a cheap, Cormanesque B-movie and gave it A-list treatment -- massive scope and every bit of the huge $25 million budget (the largest ever for a Cannon production) up there on the screen. The result is a special and truly eccentric film that 1985 audiences couldn't wrap their heads around; like so many of your movies, it is only with the passage of time that people have begun to come around on your special genius. I wish it hadn't taken so long.
Then there was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, one of my favorite horror
Maybe that's why I'm so sad about losing you, Tobe. It's because you were always mentioned among the genre greats but your greatness was too rarely talked about. And your greatness is pretty much all I ever talk about, to an almost comical degree. Today, a whole bunch of people reached out to me to say they were sorry and thought of me when the news broke. That's just about the nicest thing ever. If I did not respond, it's only because I find myself still unable to talk about it and because I don't want to make your death about me. But I'm happy that the many years of being unable to shut up about how much I love you did not go unheard, and from the sound of it I even managed to get a few people to check out or revisit some of your movies. That's the best thing I can do.
your novel, which I plan to re-read immediately), and for that I am grateful. May they continue to provide me and all of your fans the joy that they always have, and now a special kind of solace, too. I don't know how to live in world without Tobe Hooper because I've never had to do it before, but I do know that you will continue to speak to us all through your work. Please promise that you will. The world needs your voice. I need your voice.
In all of my years running F This Movie!, I think this the hardest thing I've had to write. I've had to say goodbye to filmmakers I love before, but none have ever felt as personal as this does. That's because my fandom of you, Tobe Hooper, is very personal. It's part of who I am. The things we love most always are. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I still dreamed I would someday get to meet you, to shake your hand, to share a Dr. Pepper with you, to tell just how much you have meant to me. I'm sure you've heard it thousands of times, but it's important to always let people know when their work matters. When they matter. Someday they will be gone and it will be too late. It's too late now for me, Tobe, and the sad reality of that fact is overwhelming. Even this piece is too little, too late. I can't believe you're gone.
You're my guy, Tobe Hooper. You always will be.
"He made history. Everybody else just made movies." - Caroline Williams